Social Media and Small Businesses: Making An Impact

Social media and small businesses: making an impactThey say word of mouth is the best way to do business, but these days, word of mouth is onscreen, via social media platforms. So how can social media help small business owners? Sage finds out.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Delicious, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon – there’s about as much variety in the world of social media as there is on the chocolate shelves of your local supermarket.

But while a Bounty bar may satisfy your cravings one day, it’s a Twix you need the next and in the world of social media, you’ll need to use the right platform to meet the needs of your different audiences.

David Nelkin, founder of Obsessive Web [], a leading web consultancy specialising in online strategy and the user experience, says there will be one or more social media platforms which any small business can use to their advantage, but, he warns, not getting it right can be as damaging as it can be a boost to your business.

“The most crucial thing to realise is that most forms of social marketing are a branding exercise,” David says. “They [social media platforms] will push perception and positioning of your brand – be it good or bad. And, as such, there is nothing worse than not doing it well.”

The most common thing David says he comes across with small businesses is the urge to jump on the social bandwagon from the start, when there are simply no resources to do so. “As a lone business person or a small company, it’s unlikely you will have a dedicated resource to focus solely on your social marketing. My tip is, if you don’t, then make sure you know what you’re doing and what you want to achieve before you do it. The risk is that if it’s not a key focus for you, your customers and clients will also see it this way, which could have a damaging effect.”

With such a choice of social media platforms out there, which are the best ones to use for your business purpose?

•    Twitter has fast become the social media outlet for news updates. Keep your stakeholders abreast of your business developments, new products, initiatives and research with a series of tweets.

•    Blogs allow you to share further information with your audience. You’re not restricted to 140 characters (as you are on Twitter), but make sure you stay focused. It’s easy to start waffling while blogging.

•    Facebook is ideal for market research. Want to find out if your latest product appeals to potential customers. Post it on Facebook and see who likes it.

•    LinkedIn is the platform of choice for networking with business contacts, but remember, nothing beats networking face-to-face.

“Choose the best channel for you,” advises David. “Don’t just set up an account on all of the major social media platforms. It’s important you choose quality over quantity.”

When the social media phenomenon first hit, there were some sceptics out there wondering when the bubble will burst, but many believe social media is here to stay. As a small business owner, it’s your challenge to make the most of it – after all, there’s very little cost involved and the pennies you save can buy you that extra chocolate bar!